William Henry Powell

William Henry Powell was born at the village of Pontypool, in Monmouthshire, South Wales, May 10, 1825. His parents came to the United States when he was five and he obtained his early education in the Nashville schools. In the years before the Civil War Powell attained a considerable reputation as an engineer in various ironworks and in 1861 was manager of one at Ironton, Ohio. In August of that year he recruited a company of cavalry in southern Ohio which was mustered into Federal service as a unit of the 2nd (West) Virginia Cavalry on November 8, 1861, with Powell as company commander. He was promoted to major, lieutenant colonel, and colonel of this regiment which served mainly in the state of its adoption in 1862 and 1863. On July 18, 1863, Powell was wounded and captured in an affair at Wytheville, Virginia; he was not exchanged until February, 1864. That summer and autumn Powell was attached to Philip Sheridan's cavalry in the Shenandoah campaign, and at the battle of Cedar Creek he commanded the 2nd Division of the cavalry, his command of two brigades and a battery having been detached from the Department of West Virginia. For his deportment in this engagement he was made a brigadier general of volunteers on the day of the battle and was brevetted major general of volunteers in the omnibus promotions at the end of the war, despite the fact that his resignation was accepted by the War Department on January 5, 1865. On January 13 Powell published a farewell address to his division wherein he alludes to "the cause that necessitates the act [of his resignation]" but does not elucidate further. In any event he returned to his prewar occupation at Ironton; then in 1867 he moved to Mason County, West Virginia, where he was injured while superintending the erection of a nail factory. Moving again, he resided successively in Kansas City, St. Louis, Chattanooga, and Belleville, Illinois, where he established the Western Nail Company, which he managed until 1891. General Powell was active in the Grand Army of the Republic and was elected department commander in 1895. He was also prominent in Republican circles and was appointed collector of internal revenue by President McKinley in 1898. In his later years he lived in both Belleville and Chicago; he died on December 26, 1904, in Belleville and was buried in Grace-land Cemetery, Chicago.

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Reference: Generals in Blue. Lives of the Union Commanders by Ezra J. Warner. Louisiana State University Press. Baton Rouge.